Kidoodle.TV: Safe streaming for kids

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A family-focused kid’s streaming company, Kidoodle.TV is committed to encouraging safe streaming and viewing habits, hand-picking every show to ensure content is age-appropriate and represents the best in educational, entertaining, and inspiring stories.

Co-founder, President and Chief Product Officer Neil Gruninger co-created Alberta-based streaming service Kidoodle.TV from the ground up. For the past decade, Mr Gruninger has focused on web development, online user experience, and e-marketing, and is keenly passionate about creating better digital experiences for young people. The parental presence, along with the ability to control the experience through monitoring systems and time limitations, have allowed Kidoodle.TV to make a significant impact in 140 countries around the world. Mr Gruninger discusses the inspiration behind Kidoodle.TV’s inception, the global mindset that has aided the company’s growth, and the continuing commitment to providing kids and families with a safe streaming platform.

Safe Streaming™

“Kidoodle.TV was really built upon the thesis of families and video distribution being connected through the internet,” Mr Gruninger says. “I started getting into video distribution as part of a technology corporation that basically built out an algorithm for video distribution. [Kidoodle.TV] co-founder Mike Lowe and I actually met through that process.”

The two co-founders came up with the product after Mr Lowe discovered his youngest son had accessed inappropriate content through other popular streaming services. They realized that there was both a business opportunity and a problem that needed solving.

“Immediately, he and I just decided that this was something that we were going to move forward with, took some employees with us, and ultimately created Kidoodle.TV in 2012, so it’s been almost nine years.”

The process since that moment has been interesting, involving plenty of problem solving in working out the different ways in which families and children can access Kidoodle.TV online, with mobile apps, connected TVs and smart TVs all becoming popular choices.

“The media landscape has shifted at an exponential rate,” Mr Gruninger explains. “We wake up and we have to keep up, every day, and really it’s paved the way for what we’re trying to do to make sure that kids are safe online. We trademarked Safe Streaming™, and it’s our core of what we’ve built and what our mission is online.”

The rise of content services such as YouTube has meant that there is now a proliferation of online content for kids, and this in turn has increased demand, with the internet now becoming the dominant method of content consumption.

“We own all of our technology, we’ve built it in-house. That was one of our main objectives from day one, to own and not lease, because at the end of the day it didn’t give us the agile momentum to shift and be a part of this forever-shifting video space.”

By joining the wave of internet video distribution, Kidoodle.TV has seen some real growth over its almost nine years of existence. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has created even more demand for such content to be readily available.

“Families are home, they need safe entertainment and educational content, so it’s been great to have built this for the last 8-9 years and finally really understand that families and the industry have caught up to what our vision was.”

There are a lot of kids streaming services out there, giving Kidoodle.TV plenty of competition, but Mr Gruninger feels it is differentiated from that competition by the company’s image and core family-focused values.

“Ultimately we built the service from a product of our own needs, and that’s key. You have Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, Disney. These are companies that are paying billions of dollars for content – we don’t have those costs. It allows us to have a wider audience.”

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“Kidoodle.TV was really built upon the thesis of families and video distribution being connected through the internet”

The variation of content across these bigger names has become key for kids and families. By getting access to top content, focusing on families and championing Safe Streaming™, Kidoodle.TV is able to positively differentiate from other platforms. The rise in gaming content has definitely been a factor in getting top content.

“Gaming content is this crazy new-age, modern day entertainment,” Mr Gruninger says. “It’s become the majority of what kids today are looking for. It’s been great to be a part of that process and understanding that.”

The connectivity of the internet has revolutionized gaming and built upon the industry. Having safe streaming gaming content integrated into Kidoodle.TV has been a huge value add for the company’s customers.

“A lot of times parents are expecting some older, recognizable, traditional content that they may have grown up on, and we have that as well. We have such good industry credibility when it comes to all the content providers who want Kidoodle.TV, because we have millions of families that are currently using our service every day.”

In terms of producing content, the company has started to make its own originals, which has been an extremely fun and creative undertaking, with a focus on what new things it can do in the kids streaming space.

“We’ve been working with YouTube stars that have created an incredible amount of usership and now they can’t monetize their kids content on YouTube. They’re looking for a place to house their content to actually be able to make money with, and we’re that alternative to a lot of these content providers today.”

Built for today

Based in Alberta, Kidoodle.TV has had to adjust to some particular measures to fit into the technology sector in the province, and Mr Gruninger admits that it hasn’t always been the easiest of adjustments.

“It’s been challenging in Alberta over the years,” he explains. “I would say now more than ever we’re seeing some recognition, we’re getting some street cred. That comes from just sticking to our guns and moving forward and building upon the vision of keeping kids safe online. But we had to go outside of Canada to really build the momentum.”

Both co-founders grew up in Alberta, and still have family in the province, but a lot of the financing they needed to make the company viable had to come from elsewhere. It has been a slow process feeling a part of the tech community in the area.

“We’re proud Albertans, and we get what we offer as a whole, and what the community can do for us. We’ve hired now 40 people during COVID, all very passionate about what we’re doing and excited to work with us.”

Ultimately, the tech sector in Alberta is young and growing, and Mr Gruninger admits that the company is more than happy to do what it can to help with that growth and to build upon the technology and media industry to help Alberta as a whole grow and diversify.

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Having safe streaming gaming content integrated into Kidoodle.TV has been a huge value add for the company’s customers

Although the company is Canadian, it operates in 140 countries across the world, meaning it always has a global mindset. It’s partnership with mass media and entertainment conglomerate Corus Entertainment has helped it reach this point.

“We’re an ad supported video service, so AVOD is the acronym there. Corus is the one that represents our specific inventory here, and they go out and sell our ads. But, the majority of all our usage is in the United States.”

The company has excellent representation in Canada, as its core distribution partners like Roku, Samsung and LG have supported the platform in the country. However, Canada itself is only a small part of the company’s market.

The company’s current focus is on making Kidoodle.TV feature-rich and enhancing the user experience. The technology is really the core focus, making sure that it can offer the very best streaming service.

“We’ve hired a bunch of grandparents to go through all of our content before it gets on the service. A real key focus of ours is growing that employment base and really getting them involved, because they are so key to keeping kids safe online. They watch every single frame of that content before it goes out. So that’s been great.”

The service has been built for today, so in that respect the future is now. There is so much still ahead of the company, including launching on the huge US telecommunications company, Comcast, in the near future.

“Comcast is a big company, and they want Kidoodle.TV, and it’s pretty cool. This has taken years and years, but we’re finally hitting these benchmarks of distribution platforms that just recognize us as one of the top services out there, and they can’t deny the growth and what families are looking for. That’s been very exciting for us.”

The truth is that where the company used to be calling the big distributors, asking to be put onto a platform, the big distributors are now calling Kidoodle.TV because of its reputation and previous success.

“We’ve got Paw Patrol. It’s a big, big brand. We’re one of only a small amount of streaming services that even work with Spin Master, which owns the IP for Paw Patrol. We’re getting some other big brands – in two weeks from now, we have a major launch campaign with the top brand in the world, and that’s what families are looking for.”

The journey has been fun and exciting, and has it has come to the point where the company is outperforming itself every day, with a great trajectory for success, and growing impressively from an employment standpoint.

“Our future is just continuing on and keeping kids safe,” Mr Gruninger concludes, “and making sure that families have an alternative outside of YouTube, because that’s really where they’re finding their content today.”

Operating in a rapidly growing market, and differentiating itself from the competition with a commitment to offering a safe streaming space for kids, it certainly appears that the future for Kidoodle.TV will be glowing. Find out more about Kidoodle.TV by visiting kidoodle.tv.

Envirosuite (ASX:EVS): A market leader in environmental intelligence

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An innovative tech company with roots in science, engineering, and consulting, Envirosuite is a global leader in environmental intelligence, utilising proprietary technology and real-time localised data to help industries grow and communities thrive.

Envirosuite is an ASX-listed company (ASX:EVS) with its origins starting as far back as 1990. The company uses science and technology to deliver software as a service (SaaS) solutions relating to air quality, water quality, noise, and vibration, with a varied list of clients including airports, water, mining and industrial, waste and wastewater. Jason Cooper has 20 years’ experience in the technology sector, and recently took on the role of CEO, replacing Peter White. Mr Cooper speaks to us about the value of environmental intelligence, the market-leading outlook he brings to his role, and the huge avenues of growth that offer a significant return on investments now and into the future.

Helping businesses thrive

“Environmental intelligence first started to make the scene a couple of years ago,” Mr Cooper explains. “It’s how you derive insights from environmental parameters that exist. There has been a considerable emphasis put on how businesses and society interact with the environment.”

This has moved beyond a stage of simple data collection and into the realm of analysis and insights, with many companies now turning that information into goals that can be acted upon for the good of the environment, the communities that surround them and their own operations.

“We look at environmental parameters such as noise, vibration, water quality, dust and air quality, and we take those parameters and then we start to understand how that impacts the society or the asset in which the company is operating.”

For example, a mine site needs to operate within vicinity of a community, and by doing that it understands that there are certain environmental parameters that affect how that community lives and how the site can be safely operated.

“As you can imagine, excess dust coming out of a mine site would have a negative impact on communities. Certain conditions in that environmental intelligence will contribute to how that mine site operates. It’s about giving our customers actionable insights based on those parameters.”

Envirosuite’s SaaS solutions assesses factors such as weather, the existing location, and trajectories, in order to provide the mine operator with predictive insights to ascertain when the company should time certain operations and at which part of the mine.

“We have a fairly large spectrum of customers that we are focusing on. Whilst mining is certainly a strong focus for us – we have some of the largest organisations in the world as our customers – we also have a very strong footing within the waste and wastewater communities. These are companies like Veolia and Suez, who are both our customers.”

Within the wastewater industry, Envirosuite generally helps solve odour problems. Odours at treatment plants originate from the receival of waste and as a by-product of the treatment process. Local weather conditions can intensify the impacts of odours and how far they travel, which impacts the community. The company helps those customers detect the specific type of odour and how it is affecting the community.

“We’re also number one globally within commercial airports, doing noise monitoring. When a plane comes into land, certain planes you don’t really hear, but others may come in too fast, too much of a pitch, so there’s excessive noise created. Our customers are from Los Angeles to Beijing to Heathrow, and certainly very strong in Australia.”

The global shift in corporate mindset around environmental issues means companies around the world are now recognising the importance not only of being seen to be doing good, but also actually doing it. Envirosuite’s vision is to allow businesses to thrive in parallel with growing communities.

“For most companies around the world now, it’s about how they can build a growing and profitable business without having a negative impact on the environment that they live in. There are simple, basic fundamentals for our customers. They know and they recognise that there is a long-term engagement.”

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Envirosuite (ASX:EVS) offers three products including 1). noise monitoring in commercial airports, 2). dust, water quality, and odour monitoring, and 3). water and wastewater treatment infrastructure

The mine sites Envirosuite works with are situated in mineral-rich locations, where communities are also built. Similarly, some of the company’s customers are ports, which know that the city’s viability depends on ships coming in, to unload containers, and to leave. It’s a part of the city’s economic growth.

The result has been a shift in how these issues are approached. Businesses now come to Envirosuite proactively, with prior knowledge of a problem, and the desire to be able to keep growing and engage with the community. Envirosuite’s solutions help industries to optimise operations, while strengthening their social licence to operate by building trust with communities and satisfying regulators.

“A big part of our solution here is how our technology enables a business to recognise how it’s performing, how they then communicate that to the community, and how the community then feels engaged in jointly solving this problem.”

There have already been several new executive orders signed by US President Joe Biden around these issues, one of which is designed to secure environmental justice and spur economic growth. This is to encourage businesses working in a particular area not to have a negative impact on lower economic societies.

“If you look at the water situation globally, we know that it is a very scarce resource. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will reside in water-stressed areas. There are certain reports that estimate by 2030, around $1.9 trillion needs to be spent to address global water infrastructure. What we’re doing is playing a pivotal role in enabling this transition.”

Market-leading outlook

Having recently taken over as CEO of Envirosuite, Mr Cooper is looking to make positive change. He reminds us that he is first and foremost an engineer, having spent many years working for Siemens. He calls Siemens one of the world’s greatest engineering firms, and says this experience taught him to take pride in market leadership.

“Siemens had a perspective that they wanted to be number one or two in any of the markets they operated in,” he says. “I really am taking that same approach here, which has helped us narrow our focus into the markets that we want to pursue. We want to be one or two in any of the markets we play in.”

Mr Cooper has recently returned from three years immersing himself in the machinations of California’s Silicon Valley, where he worked in high growth companies and gained an understanding of what corporate greatness really looks like.

“We operate now in very much a globalised world, and competition comes from every corner of the planet. You have to have the right strategy; you have to have the right product-market fit; you have to have the right team around you to achieve that. I think it’s having that big global picture about what does breed success – invest into those parts.”

A big part of his focus recently has been on product strategy. The company already has a strong product-market fit, but the aim is to invest further into building world-class software platforms based on scientific fundamentals, which the company has been built on.

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An innovative tech company with roots in science, engineering, and consulting, Envirosuite (ASX:EVS) is a global leader in environmental intelligence

“A key part of our challenge is to take incredibly complex scientific models and to distil that into easy-to-understand information. [The key is] to simplify that message into something you can translate, and take meaningful action.”

Customer engagement is a fundamentally important area in building out the company, and Mr Cooper is putting a renewed focus on that. The company already has a strong global reach, but the aim is to build a truly world-class customer acquisition team, as well as closer relationships with customers.

The company currently offers three products; first is noise monitoring in commercial airports; second, the industrial platform focusing on dust and water quality monitoring, as well as odour monitoring; and its new product, EVS Water, helps design, optimise and improve biological, industrial, water and wastewater treatment infrastructure. 

“With our airport product, we’re already number one in that market. What we will see there is continued growth. We are starting to see an increase in air traffic, and that will continue. The world post-COVID will be very different for airports, but a large amount of that will be around that community engagement piece. We do see a strong airport growth.”

There is also some strong new product innovation coming through in the airport market, with continued investment into technology driving deeper into operations within the world’s leading commercial airports.

“Within the industrial platform, we are going to be focusing on mining, and waste and wastewater. We have a strong global footprint here; we have some of the world’s biggest customers. Our focus now is to broaden our penetration for some of these global accounts, to drive greater market adoption. What we’re looking to do now is to build a market, not just chase revenue.”

The final product, EVS water, is very new, having only been brought to market in the last three months. This targets water treatment facilities and other utilities. It combines artificial intelligence and digital twin technology to predict and avoid water quality incidents, while identifying process improvements and cost savings for facilities in real-time.

“This is around providing a return on investment,” Mr Cooper says. “We’ve seen within a short space of time absolute market validation. I see this as a huge growth potential for Envirosuite. We’ve got product-market for it, and we know where we’re going to be accelerating. It’s now just working out what is the best go-to-market strategy to actually get the shareholder return. In the short term, I see growth above 20%, and then beyond that there will be significant upside in the coming years.”

Mr Cooper is a big believer in purpose-driven companies, and in this respect Envirosuite is a great company to get behind. What is most noteworthy is that this is Australian technology being taken across the world.

“To be number one globally, based out of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, is a fantastic example of true R&D, true ideation, and executing on it. We will be growing significantly over the next couple of years. We want to be on people’s radar, so for those people who believe in helping the environment and investing in technology, we’d love for people to come and talk to us about joining us on this journey.”

With a focus on helping businesses do the right things for the right reasons, and continued impressive growth, Envirosuite (ASX:EVS) is certainly one to watch out for in 2021 and beyond. Find out more about Envirosuite by visiting envirosuite.com. 

Bill Identity (ASX:BID): A leading global provider of utility bill management technology

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Trusted by businesses around the world, Bill Identity’s cloud-based technology leverages Robotic Process Automation, removing the need for human intervention and giving organisations control over their energy spend.

Founded in 2012 and listed on the ASX (ASX:BID), Bill Identity operates across Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. The company’s innovative technology serves its clients by improving data visibility, integrity and control. Managing Director Guy Maine has 20 years’ experience in senior executive roles across major Australian companies, and talks to us about the benefits of using Robotic Process Automation, the acquisitions that have helped the company grow, and plans to continue its growth by playing a role in the global automation of utility bills.

The fourth revolution

“The way I explain who we are and what we do is to bring this back to [the consumer],” Mr Maine says. “You would receive an electricity bill for your household, and when that bill arrives you would probably look at the cost, but you then probably don’t do much about that bill until you actually put it in your diary to pay it.”

Bill Identity (ASX:BID) deals with an expanded version of this process, relating to large multi-site enterprises that would expect to receive thousands or tens of thousands of bills that need to be paid every month.

“They wouldn’t have dissimilar practices to [the consumer]. They would receive those bills; they would enter those into their Accounts Payable system. They may check a few of them, make sure that the rate’s right potentially, and then approve them for payment.”

Bill Identity’s job is to manage electricity, gas, water and other commodities for these businesses. It runs the bills through a robotic workforce, digitising the data and exploring every item to make sure it’s correct, following up on any exceptions on the clients’ behalf and even paying bills for some clients.

“RPA, or Robotic Process Automation, is being talked about as the Fourth [Industrial] Revolution. RPA simply takes processes that have previously been done manually, and utilises a robotic workforce to do that same process. We’re talking about code and algorithms being built for us in the Amazon Cloud.”

For example, a certain robotic worker for Bill Identity would be programmed specifically to read every item on a particular bill, told where to find them in order for it to be digitised and put onto the company’s platform for other robotic workers to validate.

“It’s doing something through automation that previously you probably would have got on an Excel spread sheet, or you would have had someone manually entering that data into it’s own Accounts Payable system. So that’s what Robotic Process Automation is.”

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Bill Identity (ASX:BID) assists in the area of invoice management for companies expecting to receive thousands or tens of thousands of bills needing to be paid monthly

The company is unique in the world for utilising RPA in the niche of utility bills; no competitor in the sector is using robotic workers as a complete end-to-end process to collect, digitise, analyse, validate and pay a bill as Bill Identity does.

“We launched this business in Australia over 5 years ago, and we’ve been prosecuting our strategy here in Australia since then. We have since progressed, and our geographies are under management, so we’ve now been operating in the UK for around 18 months, and more recently in the USA.”

The company sees that it has a role to play in the global automation of the utility bills niche, using its propriety tech to help businesses across the world manage their bill stream more effectively and with deeper and richer data than they have before.

Though keen to grow organically, Bill Identity also recognises the strength of growing through acquisition. This was evidenced in 2020, when it acquired a UK-based management software business call Optima Energy Management.

“What we saw in Optima was a proprietary software platform, the owner had been managing that business for 30 years, built a good reputation up. His software purely managed validation of bills, and it was very good at doing its job, but it didn’t do the remainder of what we do: the collection of bills utilising robotic workers.”

The company recognised Optima’s existing software as something it could replace and upgrade, as well as benefitting from Optima’s expertise and market credibility, which bought with it a number of long-serving, important clients.

“For us, it was an acquisition that gave us scale and market share in a market that we certainly want to grow into and had already started that process. It was an opportunistic acquisition; it had a great database of clients; it was well-considered software; and simply we want to take those clients to the next level in terms of RPA and our platform.”

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Founded in 2012 and listed on the ASX (ASX:BID), Bill Identity operates across Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe

When it comes to a tree of development that will further the technologies that Bill Identity deals with, RPA is the beginning of a journey that will move through machine learning on a pathway towards the ultimate goal of Artificial Intelligence.

“You have desktop RPA – which is utilising robotic workers to do simple tasks. Our RPA is more cognitive. We can have robotic workers that determine whether a bill is accurate or not without our intervention. With machine learning you go to the next step. There is an allowance in the code of robotic workers that they can start to see patterns in data.”

As the company signs more and more clients, machine learning would allow it to gain an understanding and analysis of trends, with robotic workers being able to interact with the data in more complex ways.

“You might have one particular main street, where a number of our clients operate from, and our robotic workers will be able to pick up where one particular side is utilising more energy than another in a similar environment. That’s where machine learning can start to help, and it can be utilised to be a benefit to individual clients.”

Progressing down the pathway through machine learning will help the company do more analytics around consumption, goals and net zero targeting, amongst other things, purely based on the robotic workers’ findings.

“We’re a relatively young company,” Mr Maine concludes, “with proprietary Australian technology. We are unique in the world in terms of utilising a robotic platform in the cloud for utility bills. We now operate in over 40 countries. We are expanding globally. Our customer base spend is in excess of $5.8bn in utility spend per annum. We’re very keen on propagating our story in the US specifically this year, and investing behind that opportunity.”

With its Robotic Process Automation technology offering global businesses a service unlike any other in the world, and a pathway towards even greater technologies, Bill Identity (ASX:BID) is forging a path through the fourth industrial revolution. Find out more about Bill Identity by visiting billidentity.com.

Epscan Industries: Four decades of exceptional service

Featured image - Epscan industries CEO Shane Stirling in Executive America

British Columbia-based oil and energy provider Epscan Industries is a family company with a unique structure that allows it to offer expertise and resources like a major industrial contactor, while maintaining a small business, personal level of service.

Epscan’s Director of Business Development and Co-Owner Shane Stirling holds Canadian Red Seal certification in four trades, is active in the development of skilled trades training locally, provincially and federally, and is a previous Director of the Industry Training Authority in British Columbia. Mr Stirling lives in Fort St. John, BC, with his wife and son and is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for downhill skiing, personal growth, and developing people and businesses. Here Mr Stirling discusses the range of services offered by the company, the oil and energy industry’s need to train new skilled tradespeople, and Epscan’s long term plans for growth and development.

Oil & Energy

“Epscan is a contract service provider,” Mr Stirling says. “We provide a range of Electrical & Instrumentation [E&I] services, various pumps and material supply from of our large in-house inventory; and we’ve been doing it for over 40 years.”

The company services a number of industries, including upstream and midstream natural gas production, municipality services, commercial construction, potable and waste water, as well as offering pump-related services such as chemical injection solutions.

“In E&I, we’re a service provider. We do new construction of greenfield projects and any additional brownfield expansions clients want to do. For the oil and gas sector that’s building well sites and adding equipment into existing compressor and processing stations; from the municipality side, it’s building and maintaining water plants and municipal facilities.”

The company also has a communications division, which provides both mobile & stationary radio communication and fiber optic services. We also offer programming of Programmable Logic Controllers and other Automation devices.

“It’s a second-generation family business,” Mr Stirling explains. “My father started it in 1978 and I worked as a kid after school cleaning trucks, cleaning the shop, sweeping the floors – after I graduated High School I moved into the Trades Training program and a couple of decades later, here I am, running the company alongside my brother, Dustin.”

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The biggest lesson the company has learned in recent times is the importance of finding the appropriate partners to implement significant changes in the company

Being a family-owned business, Epscan Industries is committed to quality and customer service. The service it offers customers is considered one of the company’s key differentiating qualities, setting it apart from its competitors.

“If someone calls us and they need us to go and pick up a part for them on a Sunday, we’re going to go and deal with that, and make sure that client is taken care of. Whereas if you’re part of a larger organization, you don’t quite have that personal level of care.”

Additionally, the company strongly promotes the Trades Training programs, both provincially and federally, to make sure that the labor pool of skilled trade is available to them for the future.

“The fact is that we have an aging population in skilled trades. The baby boomers have been slowly moving into retirement, but as different events happen within the world, they’ve been extending their retirement dates. All that does is compound the issue, and later on we are going to have a massive amount of people leaving the workforce.”

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Epscan Industries is set to keep growing across Western Canada

This means there are gaps in the industry that need to be filled with skilled, trained individuals. Looking at current demographics, however, there just aren’t the numbers in Canada to replace those that have left.

“Even if all of the young people that are coming out of High School moved into the Trades Training programs, we don’t have enough to backfill that space and to supply the growth. So somehow, we need to develop solutions for this labor shortage.”

With the energy industry in western Canada getting busier– in the form of natural gas as a green energy solution, and particularly with the growth of alternative energies such as solar and wind – those new people will have to be found in order to push the country forward.

“We’re currently branching out,” Mr Stirling says of the company’s growth plans. “We’ve just opened a brand new branch in Grand Prairie Alberta, so we’re interested in Alberta and their markets there.”

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“We provide a range of Electrical & Instrumentation [E&I] services, various pumps and material supply from of our large in-house inventory; and we’ve been doing it for over 40 years.”

The company is also watching some longer term oil pipeline projects, such as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from Alberta to the coast of BC, which should have a significant effect on oil production in the region.

“We are also watching what’s happening on the coast of British Columbia, with the building of the LNG Canada terminal, which is going to drive growth. It’s looking like we’re going to see an upswing in the energy industry in general, and we’ll grow with that swing.”

The biggest lesson the company has learned in recent times is the importance of finding the appropriate partners to implement significant changes in the company. This was made apparent during the recent decision to upgrade internal software independently, which proved a difficult process without an appropriate partnership. 

“For anyone out there that’s looking at bringing anything new or switching anything in their company, they should really look at finding an implementation partner that they can work with to make sure that they’re getting what they want, and that when they do the transition, the connections and training are made properly.”

With a wide range of services and a commitment to a personal level of customer service, Epscan Industries is set to keep growing across Western Canada. Find out more about Epscan Industries by visiting www.epscan.com.

Eva’s Original Chimneys: Bringing delicious Hungarian pastries to Canada

Featured image - Eva's Original Chimneys CEO Kristin Butler_in the Executive America

Eva’s Original Chimneys have 3 locations in the Greater Toronto area, two food trucks and location at the CNE and Toronto christmas market. Specializes in a freshly-baked Hungarian pastry known as Kürtőskalács, or Chimney Cakes, using a vegan base dough made daily from scratch with seven all-natural and mostly organic ingredients.

CEO and co-founder Kristin Butler started her career in social work, before becoming a talent manager in the TV and Film industry. The concept for Eva’s Original Chimneys originated in 2014, when Mrs Butler sold her home and everything she owned to spend a year travelling the world with her husband. Here she discusses falling in love with Chimney Cakes during a visit to Budapest, the key lessons she has learned from five years of entrepreneurship, and Eva’s plans to expand across the world by becoming a franchisor.

Love at first bite

“It was back in 2015,” Mrs Butler says, “when my husband and I were on our yearlong backpacking trip around the world. We were coming to an end and we were visiting his family in Hungary, and they took us to a street market in Budapest, and we tried these Chimney Cakes, which are called Kürtőskalács, and honestly it was love at first bite.”

After trying food from around the world for the previous eleven months, nothing captured the couple’s heart in the way the Chimney Cakes did, and it became a daily ritual for them to enjoy the treat before they returned home.

“As we were on the train ride to our next country, we couldn’t stop thinking about them. We thought, we’re returning back home in April, maybe we’ll just look at seeing if we can learn how to make these Chimney Cakes and sell them back home, and just do that for fun in the summertime before we go back to real world living in the fall.”

The couple decided to fly to Slovenia to train at a Chimney Cake specialist centre for instructions on how to make the treat. After finding out how to do so, the remaining month of their trip was spent working out how to turn that knowledge into a business.

“We flew to Slovenia, we learned how to make them, we purchased the equipment, shipped it home, came home in April of 2015 and purchased a food truck the next day, sat down with a lawyer and incorporated our company, and within eight weeks we were operating at our first festival.”

Both Mr and Mrs Butler come from entrepreneurial families, so it is perhaps little surprise that the drive to start their own business was so strong and that they followed through with it so successfully.

“My mom owns her own business; my sister runs and owns her own business; Justin’s parents have owned and operated their own catering and banquet hall for 30 years; and Justin actually owned his own construction company prior to us travelling, so he was already an entrepreneur, always has been since he left High School.”

The co-founders of Eva’s recognized quickly that their product was an extremely unique one, with nothing like it being sold in Canada. It’s cylindrical shape and hollow middle gives it a striking look that immediately draws attention.

Eva's Original Chimneys - in Executive America
Both Mr and Mrs Butler come from entrepreneurial families, ... the drive to start their own business was so strong and that they followed through with it so successfully

“It’s freshly baked, it’s a pastry, so when it comes off the grill you take the wooden dowel out that the dough was wrapped around, and it kind of steams and smokes out of the top, hence the name ‘chimney’. When we were first looking at it we were mesmerized by the actual baking process and how it looks – there is nothing like this in Canada.”

In 2016, as the business was growing across Canada, Eva’s decided to adapt its offering and start making the cakes into a conical shape, filling them with chocolate, soft serve ice cream and lots of toppings.

“That’s really what we’re known for now, the Chimney Cone,” Mrs Butler says. “People just kind of went crazy for that, because it’s like a donut cone, like ice cream inside of a donut. The extra appeal is, it’s unique and it’s beautiful and its Instagram-able, but the taste is actually amazing.”

The other unique element to the product is the collection of ingredients used. Being extremely passionate about health, Mrs Butler was adamant that the product be as healthy as it could be while still being a sweet, delicious treat.

“We use organic cane sugar and unbleached flour, no chemicals or any artificial ingredients. All of our sauces are house made, there are absolutely no syrups, no fake sugars. It’s baked and not deep fried, so you can have this dessert that you can feel good about, that goes into your body and doesn’t make you feel sick after.”

Having a strong connection to the vegan community, Mrs Butler wanted to make sure that as much of the product was vegan as possible, including the soft serve ice cream, the dough recipe – which uses sunflower oil instead of butter and no milk or eggs – and a number of the sauces and toppings.

“For the vegan community, even people who are just lactose intolerant – which is a large portion of the ice cream lovers out there – they can have this beautiful, decadent dessert that they can actually eat. So that’s huge for our Torontonians. I would imagine if other people in Canada had the chance to have it they would appreciate that too.”

Franchise opportunities

Since its inception in 2015, Eva’s has continued to receive regular requests to become a franchisor, so much so that it has begun to lay out a plan for moving forward in terms of franchising and expansion.

Eva's Original Chimneys - in Executive America
Eva’s Original Chimneys is all set to bring its delicious Hungarian pastry to the world

“When we launched those Chimney Cones, it became super popular across the internet, with millions and millions of views of these videos that were made by BlogTO and Insider. I think that had this widespread reach across the globe, and then all of sudden we started having all these franchise requests coming in, all the way from Saudi Arabia to Florida to South Africa.”

Despite there being a desire to see their product eaten around the world, the co-founders of Eva’s have been cautious in starting a franchise journey, wanting to make sure that the right steps are being taken to make the process worthwhile and authentic.

“If there’s somebody that’s going to franchise our business, and become a franchisee, for me more than anything it’s important that they’re going to succeed. So we’ve really taken our time to build the business, understand our business, know where it works well, know what environment, what location is good, what neighbourhood.”

The company is already operating in a number of different settings and locations, with the original food truck idea working well, as well as being inside malls, street front locations and kiosks, and there is still more to learn about what is the best model for the business.

“[I want to] ensure that when this person is coming to become a franchisee, I’m handing them over something that I trust that they’re going to be able to do well with, and actually it’s going to provide value for their life.”

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has given the company even more time to work out the best way to expand into a franchising model, putting Eva’s in a place where it’s almost ready to start a proper expansion drive.

“We’ve been able to survive [the pandemic],” Mrs Butler says, “which is probably one of the worst things that most businesses have had to try to survive. But we’ve been able to do that and there is only signs of growth, so now we’re feeling a lot more confident about what we’re putting together for these franchisees.”

The best possible experience

Entrepreneurs are used to wearing many different hats in the day-to-day running of a business or businesses, and this teaches a number of important lessons about to how to make a company successful. For Mrs Butler, it means that there are no jobs she doesn’t do.

Eva's Original Chimneys - in Executive America
The key to this is knowing that there are going to be problems every day.... it is about accepting them and seeing them as opportunities to learn more about the business

“There’s nothing that’s above me or below me, in the sense that I will absolutely clean the floors and empty the garbage, and I will also do the payroll and I will also solve a technology issue, and I will also look for marketing ideas. It’s understanding that my responsibility is to be able to operate in every role at any time that’s needed.”

No matter which area of the business she is working in at any one time, Mrs Butler considers all jobs to be as important as each other, each component having a place in the wider running of the business.

“I would say stress management is key, in terms of lessons that I’ve learned running the business. When I started to understand that a big part of my role is to solve problems, or at least look for a solution, that actually helped so much, because then when a problem occurs it’s like – this is what we do, let’s figure it out. I don’t have that stressful feeling behind it.”

The key to this is knowing that there are going to be problems every day – that’s business. Instead of looking at these problems as things that shouldn’t be happening, it is about accepting them and seeing them as opportunities to learn more about the business.

“One thing that I share with my team and that I think is really important is that we don’t just serve ice cream. We have this opportunity to connect with people when they come into our store, and really provide them an experience for those few minutes that can positively impact their life.”

The focus in most of Eva’s team meetings is on the customer and what might be going on in their life that day, on making sure that they are treated well and given the best experience possible when they enter the store.

“That’s really all I care about,” Mrs Butler concludes. “Honestly and truly, that is what I care about. I want them to leave the store feeling a little bit better than they did when they walked in. Every single person who walks in, we have the chance to do that with. It’s not about the ice cream.”

With a unique product in the Canadian market and a commitment to organic ingredients and exceptional customer service, Eva’s Original Chimneys is all set to bring its delicious Hungarian pastry to the world. Find out more about Eva’s Original Chimneys by visiting www.originalchimneys.com

Vermont: A history

Tucked away in the center of New England between New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and Quebec, tiny Vermont, nicknamed the Green Mountain State, is the second least populated, and the sixth smallest by area of the fifty states that make up the United States, with a rich and varied history stretching back to the late Pleistocene period.

Native history

Vermont’s Native history started 12,900 years ago, when people called the Paleo-Indians first moved onto the land. Since these earliest occupations, Native communities have continually lived in Vermont. Native knowledge, experience, and traditions have deeply influenced many aspects of the state’s rich history.

Researchers estimate that the native population of New England numbered more than 90,000 before European settlers reached the land in the sixteenth century, among which were around 10,000 Abenaki living in what is today known as Vermont and New Hampshire.

Those Abenaki included an estimated 4,200 living in the Champlain Valley, a region around Lake Champlain in Vermont and New York, extending north slightly into Quebec,
and another 3,800 in the upper Connecticut River Valley, which stretches the entire length of New England.

Between 1534 and 1609, the Iroquois Mohawks drove many of the smaller native tribes out of the Champlain Valley region, later using the area as a hunting ground and warring with the remaining Abenaki.

Arrival of the French and British

The Lake Champlain area was named in the mid-17th century, when French explorer Samuel de Champlain found the region. De Champlain also gave the state its name, which originates from the French for Green Mountain (Verd Mont). It wasn’t until over a century later that the area became more formally known as Vermont.

By that time, in the mid-18th century, the state had become a British settlement, after victory in the French and Indian war, which pitted the colonies of British America against those of New France, with each side supported by Native American allies and military units from the parent country.

In 1764, King George III established the boundary between New Hampshire and New York along the west bank of the Connecticut River. This meant that Albany County, New York, as it was then known, gained the land presently known as Vermont. This line became the modern boundary between New Hampshire and Vermont.

Thirteen years later, representatives of the New Hampshire Grants declared their land an independent republic, the Vermont Republic. For the first six months of the republic’s existence, the state was called New Connecticut. Later that year, the Constitution of Vermont was drawn up, the first in North America to provide for the abolition of slavery.

The Wars

During this period, the American rebels were fighting the American Revolutionary War against the British, with the state of Vermont playing a pivotal role in the fighting. Two of the key battles recognized as the turning point in the war, at Bennington and Saratoga, were fought in Vermont.

These battles represented the first major defeat of a British army, convincing the French that the American rebels were worthy of military aid. They were so important in fact, that August 16th, the anniversary of the battle, has since become known as Bennington Battle Day, and is a legal holiday in Vermont.

In 1791, Vermont joined the federal union as the fourteenth state, becoming the first to enter after the original thirteen colonies. In the early decades of the 19th century, there was an influx of French-Canadian immigration, boosting an already large population in Burlington.

When the American Civil War began in 1861, Vermont continued the military tradition it had established during the Revolutionary War by contributing a significant portion of its eligible men to the war effort. More than 28,100 Vermonters served in Vermont volunteer units, with a total of 1,832 killed or mortally wounded in battle.

Vermont today

During the two decades following the end of the Civil War in 1865, like much of the United States Vermont endured a period of instability, experiencing both economic expansion and contraction, and dramatic social change. Over the next century, the state would develop a reputation for embracing broadly left-wing politics.

Vermont has led the way in many areas of modern life. In 1940, the first monthly Social Security benefit check for the amount of $22.54 was issued to a Vermont resident. In 1978, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield opened their first Ben & Jerry’s Homemade ice cream shop in a refurbished gas station in Burlington.

After narrowly supporting Republican George H. W. Bush in 1988, four years later Vermont voted Democratic for the first time since 1964, helping Bill Clinton to the Presidency. Vermont has voted Democratic in every subsequent presidential election, and since 2004 has been one of the party’s most loyal states.

In 2000, Vermont became the first state to introduce civil unions, and in 2009 was the first to legalize same-sex marriage. In 2018, Vermont became the first of the United States to legalize cannabis for recreational use by legislative action, and the ninth state in the United States to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

Today, Vermont is still known for being politically-engaged, but is also recognized for its breathtakingly picturesque landscapes and endless scenic places to explore, exceptional food, safe cities, great schools, and down-to-earth residents.

Vermont: Business and economic development

As the second-least populated U.S. state, with the second-smallest GDP, in terms of business and economic development Vermont will always be David pushing to compete with bigger and more popular Goliaths. For a small state with a big personality, however, Vermont continues to punch above its weight in a number of key areas.

In 2020, Vermont became one of the few states in the nation to undertake a comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS), which was completed with invaluable assistance and input from stakeholders around the state, and with guidance and funding from the U.S. Economic Development Authority.

The Vermont 2020 CEDS identifies twelve target business sectors with a strong likelihood of growing the state economy and enhancing the quality of life for its residents, suggesting projects and initiatives that can help each action area and sector grow, as well as anticipating future events and identifying tactics to help build resilience.

The Green Mountain State is already holding its own in economic development. Despite having a population below 650k, World Population Review rates Vermont in a first place tie with South Carolina and Utah for highest rate of employment (97.7%). The unemployment numbers in the state rank at #5, making up just 2.9% as of April 2021.

A number of business owners in the state argue that the rate of unemployment is actually too low, as they are lacking qualified skilled workers for their companies, specifically in the manufacturing industry. This has forced employers to cut back on hours and production, unable to find the help they require.

Birthplace of American manufacturing

As the birthplace of manufacturing in the United States, Vermont boasts a highly-skilled labor pool known for a strong work ethic and attention to craftsmanship. The state nurtures that workforce with a variety of specialized training programs aimed at employers.

Key to this approach is the Vermont Training Program (VTP), which partners with employers and training providers to train Vermont’s employees for the jobs of tomorrow, providing performance-based workforce grants for pre-employment training, and training for both new hires and incumbent workers.

Ranked in the top 20 states in the nation for education, businesses have continual access to new young talent from the 40,000 students spread across Vermont’s 25 highly-regarded colleges and universities, including the University of Vermont in Burlington, and renowned liberal arts school Middlebury College.

From famous ice cream making duo Ben & Jerry to all weather performance socks manufacturer Darn Tough, Vermont has a reputation for inspiring innovative products that deliver exceptional quality. These ingenious businesses foster a happy and productive workforce, making Vermont a melting pot of entrepreneurial talent.

Entrepreneurship

In 2012, Vermont was ranked 8th in the U.S. in the Index of Entrepreneurial Activity by the Kaufman Foundation, and is a hotbed of world-class R&D, sitting in first place nationally in patents filed per capita. This innovation can be seen in action at Burton Snowboards’ 3-D Rapid Prototyping facility.

Likewise, Keurig Green Mountain’s Beverage System R&D Campus in Waterbury is an impressive facility. Another home-grown Vermont product, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters made founder Robert Stiller a billionaire after becoming popular nationally when it was used in pods for Keurig coffee-makers.

Much of the state’s entrepreneurship and innovation feeds into its commitment to helping create a sustainable future both for Vermont and for the nation. Clean energy remains the biggest job creator across the U.S. energy sector, employing nearly three times as many workers as work in fossil fuel extraction and generation.

A continued focus on sustainability has seen Vermont rank consistently as the top state for clean energy jobs per capita, with more than 5% of all jobs employed by clean energy businesses, including the most solar jobs per capita since 2012.

The undisputed jewel in Vermont’s crown in terms of production is its renowned Grade A maple syrup. Vermont leads the nation in maple syrup production, with its almost 2 million gallons a year accounting for nearly half of the total U.S. syrup crop.

Agriculture

In 2000, around 3% of Vermont’s working population were involved in agriculture, which contributed 2.2% to the state’s domestic product. The primary source of agricultural income is dairy farming, which was preserved by state government legislation opposing housing development plans on relatively inexpensive land in the second half of the 20th century.

Around 900 farms producing more than $470m worth of milk each year make up roughly two-thirds of all the state’s agricultural produce. It’s little surprise then that Vermont’s most famous export is ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream was founded in Burlington in 1978, and subsequently sold to Unilever for $326 million in 2000.

In 2019, two-thirds of all milk in New England was produced by Vermont dairies, with a significant portion of that number being shipped into the Boston market, prompting the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to certify that Vermont farms meet Massachusetts sanitary standards.

In 2009, the state boasted 543 organic farms, with 20% of its dairy farms and 23% of its vegetable farms included in that number. By 2016, Vermont’s 134,000 certified organic acres accounted for 11% of its total 1.25 million farm acres.

A growing part of Vermont’s economy is the manufacture and sale of artisan foods and novelty items, trading in part upon the Vermont brand, which the state manages and defends. These specialty exports include Cabot Cheese, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, as well as several microbreweries and ginseng growers.

Like the other 49 states in the United States, business owners in Vermont can take advantage
of the highly competitive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which encourage domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research or R&D with the potential for commercialization.

In addition to national funding, the state of Vermont offers local businesses an economic incentive for business recruitment, growth, and expansion. The Vermont Employment Growth Initiative (VEGI) provides a cash payment to businesses that have been authorized to earn the incentive and go on to meet performance requirements.

Strategic advantage

Boasting a unique combination of high economic growth, an engaged community and a strong education system, Vermont is an ideal place for international companies to do business. Located in the heart of New England, the state offers a strategic advantage to companies doing business with Montreal, Boston, and New York City.

Canada, the United Kingdom, and France are just a few of the countries investing in Vermont. Foreign associates account for over 12,000 jobs in the state, with this number continuing to grow as more companies discover why Vermont is the state to invest in.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and economies have had a particularly tough year, and Vermont is no exception. However, as of June 14th 2021, there are no longer any restrictions or requirements for businesses to follow. Vermont’s high vaccination rates mean the vast majority are protected from the virus and keep it from spreading to others.

This means that once again, as it has always been, Vermont is a great place to grow a business. Whether it is a business relocating from another state or wishing to build its beginnings in Vermont, there is a plethora of available market opportunities.

The Vermont Department of Economic Development (DED) is staffed with professionals ready and willing to assist new and expanding companies, working in conjunction with Regional Development Corporations (RDCs) and other strategic partners that together can cater for all business relocation and expansion needs.

Part of the DED’s role is to counsel businesses about the various resources that are available to facilitate employee training, workforce, market expansion, facilities growth, and relocation, as well as coordinating various available programs while collecting commentary from business leaders and reporting it to state leadership.

In addition to being consistently rated among the top three states in the nation for quality of life, health, safety, and education, more than anything, Vermont cultivates innovation. From major corporate headquarters to small companies with a global reach, Vermont’s economy is diverse, full of innovation and propelled by a world-class workforce.

Vermont: Our cities and towns

Montpelier

Stretching just under 160 miles in length between New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and 90 miles wide to the north at the Canadian border, quaint little Vermont is the second smallest state in the U.S., and has the nation’s smallest state capital in Montpelier, home to just over 1% of Vermonters.

Recording a population of 7,248 in 2020, Montpelier’s numbers have been declining for a decade, with its population reduced from 7,855 in 2010. Despite these low numbers however, the daytime population grows to approximately 21,000 people, with many people in surrounding areas commuting to the city limits for work.

Despite not even filling a spot in the top five biggest cities in the state, Montpelier represents the very best of Vermont. The city’s bustling business district is home to plenty of independently-owned shops that offer books, recordings, clothing, fine crafts and pastries, as well as great dining in an array of restaurants, cafes and delis.

Montpelier is the largest urban historic district in Vermont. Home to local theatre, live music and The Savoy arts cinema, it has been recognized as one of the 100 Best Small Arts Towns in the U.S. The impeccably restored Vermont Statehouse is one of the oldest and best preserved in the country, and is a source of immense pride for local residents.

Since the city’s establishment as capital in 1805, the primary business in Montpelier has been government. By the mid-19th century there was a growth in life and fire insurance. Montpelier is home to the New England Culinary Institute, the annual Green Mountain Film Festival, and the headquarters of several insurance companies.

The average household income in Montpelier is $85,017 per annum, and it has a poverty rate of 7.46%. The median rental costs in recent years has been $1,021 per month, and the median house value is $252,600. People living in Montpelier have a median age of 45 years, 42.8 years for males, and 47.5 years for females.

Burlington

The most well-known city in Vermont is by far its biggest. With a population of 43,063, the northern city of Burlington dwarfs its biggest rival in size, nearby Essex, by almost 100%. Despite its runaway lead at the top of Vermont’s rankings, Burlington is in fact the smallest city population-wise to also be the most-populous city in its state.

Unlike the state capital, Burlington’s population is growing, currently at a rate of 0.28% annually, having been recorded at 42,417 in the census of 2010. It’s current population is the highest the city has ever recorded. Spanning over 15 miles, the city has a population density of 4,178 people per square mile.

Vibrant, welcoming, and innovative, Burlington is a small, friendly city that consistently earns national awards. Home to a thriving arts scene, museums and educational opportunities, fantastic shopping, three colleges and a university, as well as a full range of four-season outdoor pursuits, Burlington has a lot to offer for residents and tourists alike.

Surrounded by historic buildings, the Church Street Marketplace hosts specialty shops and national retailers, restaurants and cultural venues, with outdoor cafes, street vendors, and entertainers keeping the city bustling into the night. Festivals are held year round, with events like the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival attracting visitors from throughout the northeast.

A short walk from Church Street is nearby Burlington Waterfront Park, which offers ferry crossings, excursion boats, and a 12.5-mile walking and bike path that connects to the Lake Champlain Islands via bike ferry in summer. Bicycles, rollerblades, kayaks, and sailboats are all available for rent, and there are spectacular views across the lake.

The average household income in Burlington is $71,718 per annum, and it has a relatively high poverty rate of 26.42%. The median rental costs in recent years come to $1,213 per month, and the median house value is $284,500. Residents of Burlington have a median age of 26.8 years, 26.4 years for males, and 27.3 years for females.

Essex

Roughly 7 miles east of Burlington is the town of Essex, the second most populous area in the state, home to almost 21.5k people. In 2019, the median income of Essex households was $84,588, with just 5.2% of families living in poverty.

Job growth over the last year in Essex has been positive, with an increase of 0.6% and an average salary in the city of $73,530. The unemployment rate is well below the U.S. average of 6%, currently sitting at 2.4%.

In the southwestern part of the town of Essex is the village of Essex Junction, home to the state of Vermont’s busiest Amtrak station and its largest private employer, GlobalFoundries. The village was formed in 1892 to provide the villagers with services that the rest of the town didn’t want and were not prepared to pay for, such as sidewalks, water, and sewers.

After a 2006 a vote the town and village were merged temporarily. The merger was overthrown by a re-vote the following year, thereby preventing a new Town of Essex Junction from replacing the current Town of Essex and Village of Essex Junction.

Essex is bordered by the Winooski River, with Mt. Mansfield and Camel’s Hump in the background. The town is also home to The Harriet Farnsworth Powell Museum, housed in a former two-room schoolhouse, and displaying a collection of costumes, school items, and local memorabilia.

South Burlington

The third most populated area in Vermont, and its second largest city, is the city of South Burlington, with a population of 19,761. Growing at a rate of 0.64% annually, its population has increased impressively from 17,904 in 2010. Spanning more than 30 miles, South Burlington has a population density of 1,198 people per square mile.

The average household income in South Burlington is $95,248 with a poverty rate of 6.63%. The median rental cost in recent years is $1,401 per month, and the median house value is $307,500. Those living in South Burlington have a median age of 41.7 years, 38.9 years for males, and 43.6 years for females.

The economy in South Burlington is largely service-based, with 191 businesses in retail trade, 131 establishments in health care and assistance, and 116 in professional, scientific, and technical service industries. In 2015, South Burlington was first in the state for gross retail and use sales, making over $1.8bn.

Major employers in South Burlington include the Vermont National Guard, GE Healthcare, Ben & Jerry’s, Fairport Communications, Lane Press, and Halyard Brewing Co. The city boasts both Vermont’s largest mall, the University Mall, and its largest airport, Burlington International, and is home to CommutAir, a regional airline headquartered by the airport.

The city’s biggest modern change is the current City Center Initiative, a proposal to create a walkable downtown, in which the public is investing in infrastructure to support gathering spaces, mobility and economic vitality. The over 300-acre area targeted to be developed and redeveloped is zoned for mixed-use including residential, commercial, and cultural spaces.

The main components under design or construction by the city are a city hall, senior center and public library, streets, and parks. Two main streets, Market Street and Garden Street, will be constructed or reconstructed and fitted with bicycle and walking facilities, and lined with trees.

Colchester

Directly north of Burlington, on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain and to the west of the Green Mountains, is Colchester, the 4th most populated area in Vermont, and the second-most populated town after Essex. Home to 17,303 people, Colchester recorded a median household income of $71,090 in 2019.

Colchester is a unique combination of rural and suburban environments, with easy access to the lake, mountains, the city of Burlington, and even Canada. Popular recreational activities include biking and water sports. The town’s Bayside Activity Center is primarily used for recreation programs, providing access to Bayside Beach and the Bayside Park amenities.

Colchester is home to the Vermont National Guard, as well as Saint Michael’s College and the Vermont campuses of the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Southern New Hampshire University. The top industries in the city are education, medical and manufacturing.

Colchester has received plenty of accolades in the past. In 2015, it was ranked number 100 on Fortune Magazine’s list of 100 Best Places to Live, and number 40 on Launch a Business and Money Magazine’s list of 50 Best Places to Live. Two years later, Money Magazine ranked the city number 86 in the top 100 places to live in America.

Vermont’s authentic downtowns and villages are widely recognized as the centerpiece of community life in the state, providing residents and visitors alike with architecture of historical significance as well as memorable shopping and dining experiences.

In these vibrant places, of which 23 have been given special recognition by the state, one can discover locally-owned retail businesses displaying everything from hardware to specialty goods, fine restaurants serving fresh, local food and craft libations that have attracted international accolades.

Vermont: Tourism & attractions

Tucked into the north-eastern US region of New England, with thousands of acres of Green Mountain terrain running through it, Vermont is known for its primarily forested natural landscape, as well as being home to more than a hundred 19th-century covered wooden bridges, and a major producer of maple syrup.

Tourism is one of the largest industries in the state, which receives over 13 million visitors each year and around $3bn in annual spending on lodging, food and drink, goods and services. The busiest time of year is the summer, when more than 5 million people arrive to enjoy Vermont’s wide-open spaces and diverse attractions.

Tourism is not reserved merely for summer however, and Vermont is visited year round, with world-renowned fall foliage enticing a flock of visitors to state byways every year to enjoy a spectacular change of seasons. In winter, Vermont’s world-class ski resorts make it the most popular spot in the north-east for skiing and riding.

One of the best places to visit is the northern town of Stowe. Located at the foot of 4,395 foot high Mt. Mansfield, the highest mountain in the state, and boasting a covered bridge, white-spired church, weathered barns, and ski trails down the mountainside, Stowe is a picture postcard image of Vermont.

Deep in the heart of the state’s snow belt, Stowe personifies the glory days of Vermont’s early ski industry. The heritage of the industry is on show in nearby Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum, which has been dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the history of skiing and riding in Vermont since 1988.

Stowe Mountain Resort is still one of New England’s premier ski destinations, and the gondola that carries skiers in the winter takes sightseers to the summit for more views in the summer and fall.

With plenty to offer beyond skiing, Stowe has shops and boutiques, art galleries, dining, and lodging of all sorts available. The walk along the 5.3 mile Stowe Recreation Path, a paved multi-use route through meadows and woods alongside the river, provides exquisite views of Mt. Mansfield.

Beyond the resort, the road narrows to snake through Smugglers’ Notch, one of Vermont’s most engaging natural attractions. The road through this pass between Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak is so tight and narrow as it winds upward that at some curves only a single car can pass through the openings between giant boulders.

A short drive south down Route 89 is the state capital, Montpelier. Vibrant, engaged and neighborly, Downtown Montpelier is one of 23 designated historic downtowns, where visitors and residents find the distinctive local businesses, historic buildings, and rich cultural and social activities that form the state’s special sense of community.

In the center of the city, The Vermont Historical Society explores the state’s rich heritage, with the purpose of reaching a broad audience through outstanding collections, state-wide outreach, and dynamic programming, believing that an understanding of the past changes lives and builds better communities.

After the capital, Vermont’s most-populated city, Burlington, is another ‘must visit’ part of the state. In the heart of downtown Burlington, the marketplace in Church Street is a four-block long traffic-free space where visitors can find public events and lively street life, even in Vermont’s cold winters.

Along with the festivals scheduled throughout the year, Church Street is home to an abundance of sidewalk cafes, benches, and public artworks, and buildings filled with shops, restaurants, and boutiques.

Several blocks south, in Burlington’s vibrant south end neighborhood, is the renowned Lake Champlain Chocolates’ flagship store, nestled near the shores of Lake Champlain and Burlington’s renowned bike path. Located here for over 38 years, this Vermont family company creates premium chocolate that is truly unforgettable.

Thirty miles east of Burlington, the little town of Waterbury is home to another of Vermont’s most iconic brands. Unquestionably the most popular tourist attraction for children, the Ben & Jerry’s factory offers a 30-minute guided tour of the factory, giving visitors the chance to watch workers as they make and package ice cream.

Summer in Vermont sees the arrival of fair season, and there are few more well-known than the historic Champlain Valley fair in Essex. The first Fair opened as the Essex Fair in the 1910s, and grew so quickly over the first few years that a committee was formed with the intent of turning it into a ‘true county fair’ in 1921.

Today the fair is marketed by promoters as the ‘ten best days of summer’ and offers fun for the whole family, featuring a garden center, animal exhibits, vendors of both hard and soft goods, and a selection of delicious and exciting fair food stands.

South of Burlington, on the shores of Lake Champlain, is the suburb of Shelburne, home of a well-known farm, the Shelburne Orchards, and the Shelburne Museum, one of the nation’s most diverse museums of art, design and Americana.

Extending for 120 miles between Vermont and New York, with its northern tip in Canada, Lake Champlain lies mostly in Vermont, and draws visitors for its recreation, wildlife, and historical attractions. Much of the lake’s shoreline is undeveloped, a haven for wildlife and a playground for canoeists, kayakers, and sailors.

According to Samuel de Champlain, for whom the lake is named, a 20-foot serpent-like creature swims in the lake. His was the first, but certainly not the last, reported sighting of the creature now known as ‘Champy.’

North of Burlington is the town of Colchester, located on the shores of stunning Mallet’s Bay, where visitors can find the Island Line Trail or Colchester Causeway, a 14-mile rail trail located in northwest Vermont. It comprises the Burlington Bike Path, Colchester Park and the Allen Point Access Area.

In the north-east of the state, the small town of Danville is home to New England’s largest maze, the Great Vermont Corn Maze, a unique attraction with a maze covering 24 acres and constituting more than 2 hours of hiking, with miles of dirt trails lined with walls of corn.

Along Route 4 on the eastern state border is the town of Hartford and Quechee State Park, home to the Quechee Gorge. Vermont’s deepest gorge, Quechee was formed by glaciers about 13,000 years ago, and has continued to deepen by the constant action of the Ottauquechee River, flowing 165 feet below.

A trail leads through the woods beside the rim to the bottom of the gorge, where you can see the lower part of it from water level. Close to the gorge, also on Route 4, is the excellent Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences, a nature center where injured raptor birds are rehabilitated and returned to the wild.

The institute’s new Forest Canopy Walk is fun for people of all ages and levels of ability, gaining elevation without stairs by following the land’s natural slop toward the Ottauquechee River. The Walk has a tree house, giant spider web 43 feet above the forest floor, educational interpretation, and local artwork.

Less than 20 miles south down the Connecticut River is the town of Windsor, where visitors can find the American Precision Museum, which combines the atmosphere of an original 19th century factory building with a world-class collection of historic machines.

The Museum is located in the Robbins & Lawrence Armory, a National Historic Landmark. In 1846, Samuel Robbins, Nicanor Kendall, and Richard Lawrence won a government contract for 10,000 rifles, and constructed this four-story brick building beside Mill Brook.

The southern town of Manchester has become a popular tourist destination over recent years. One of its prime locations is the Lincoln family home at Hildene, which represents a fine example of homes built as retreats for the families of wealthy magnates.

Robert Todd Lincoln, son of the 16th US president, first visited Manchester shortly before his father’s assassination, and later returned to build the Georgian Revival Hildene as his country estate. The home is furnished with a number of pieces from the Lincoln family, including the President’s famous stovepipe hat.

Further south still, at the very lowest tip of the state, is historic Bennington, home to the Bennington Battle Monument, a 306-foot-high obelisk, visible for miles around, that commemorates the 1777 battle fought about five miles west of Bennington during the Revolutionary War, which turned the tide against the British.

Regardless of the time of the visit, Vermont has attractions and destinations in spades in all four seasons, and no matter the weather, there’s always something to do for couples, groups or the whole family.

Prepare for a post-pandemic spending boom & bust

Rosenberg Research and Associates Founder Chief Economist and Strategist David Rosenberg in Executive America

If you ask anyone in the market why they are bullish for 2021, they will tell you right away that they see a light at the end of the Covid tunnel. And indeed, with the multiple vaccine news we have received since the beginning of November, there is a light. There may be many potholes, with the coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and fatalities on a disturbing upward trajectory, and a very tough winter staring us in the face, but there is a light that we can now all see. To have vaccines developed and now distributed in such volumes and with such tremendous efficacy levels, and done so quickly, does indeed make one tempted to believe in miracles we thought were only saved for the bible stories.

So what lies ahead for the coming year. A very rough first quarter for the economy. And then a better second quarter. And quite likely boom-like conditions in the second half of the year as substantial amounts of pent-up demand get released. You speak to most people, and the first thing they want to hear upon getting the jab are the words “please fasten your seatbelts”. Travelling, mall browsing, bar hopping, eating out, dare I say, socialising, will be all the rage. It is called “pent-up demand” for a reason. And this will be the single dominating force driving the economy in 2021, barring any unforeseen setbacks (as in, not enough of a vaccine take-up to achieve the Holy Grail of herd immunity. No central bank will dare tighten monetary policy even if inflation rears its (pretty?) head, the fiscal spigots will remain turned on in a major way. Interest rates, by hook or by crook, will not be allowed to rise as they have typically done in past aggressive economic recoveries. If you are a policymaker today, the last thing you will be doing is upsetting any apple carts.

So the economic outlook for 2021 is perhaps the easiest one to make that I can recall in my 35 years in the forecasting business. There will be a post-pandemic spending boom. It’s only a matter of how big and what quarter it begins. That light, indeed, does shine bright. Much of this good news, as an aside, is priced into every global financial asset you can probably name. Even the previously beaten-up airline, casino, retail and hotel stock you can think of has priced in the light at the end of the tunnel.

But, you see, from a financial markets standpoint, just as the economy booms next spring and summer, even into the fall, investors will at some point in 2021 have to confront what life is going to be like once we get past the light. At some point next year, I guarantee everyone that just as the markets were soaring during the darkest of hours during the pandemic in 2020 because of the light they saw at the end of the tunnel, these same markets will be beyond that light even as we all go out and have fun again. That’s the thing about markets – they move earlier and more quickly than people do.

All that said, I do think from an economic standpoint, there will be an economic recovery of epic proportions. But the recovery beyond the end of 2021 will be muted and frustratingly slow, and it could take at least three years before all the economic damage from the virus and the lockdowns are ultimately recouped. Then think of a future with massive public deficits, debts, and government intervention and regulation. Then we have to consider, when we get to the other side, how these massive central bank balance sheets will get dealt with. Will the debts get monetised or not? And a world of reduced globalisation and more localised supply chains, an end to-just-in-time inventories, and what the future holds for taxation. I don’t know about you folks, but it is crystal clear to me that in this period of heightened uncertainty, it will be capital, and not labour, that defrays the cost of the rescue packages, and that means higher tax rates on capital gains and corporate income. The current surge in the deficit is not about shovels in the ground with some hope of future multiplier effects on the economy – it is simply a transfer from some future taxpayer to today’s household and business who are out of work and for some reason had no cash, savings, or liquidity to get through even a few months of shutdown for public health purposes.

What the world looks like when the crisis ends is truly anyone’s guess but I will say with 100% clarity that it is going to look a lot different than it did before. Not just the question over government policy, but at the individual level, months of isolation and distancing, and fear of a return of the pandemic are going to fundamentally alter lifestyles, and will have a profound influence not just on the way we live but how we conduct ourselves in our personal and commercial lives. For example, working from home is certainly going to be a more dominant force even once we move beyond the light at the end of the tunnel, with obvious negative implications for commercial real estate but positive implications for internet infrastructure, computer hardware and video conferencing. There is going to be a sharp reduction in travel to work, travel in general, and this means fewer cars on the road, there is nothing here that is very good for the auto sector, and the future therefore is really clouded for office REITS and commercial real estate in the large densely populated urban areas. But there are some bullish themes that emerge too. As we go into an era of elevated personal savings rates where people are going to focus on what they need, not what they want. This means to screen all of your equity exposure for “utility-like” characteristics – and that includes anything related to ecommerce, cloud services, delivery services and wiring up your home to become your new office. What lies beyond the light at the tunnel is a secular shift in economic behaviour that took place during this grim period of history; shifts I believe are secular in nature, that tell me to focus on areas of the market, consumer staples, health care and even big tech, that have morphed into essentials.

No doubt, the investment community is paying more for duration today than they ever have in history but since we can anticipate rates to stay low for years to come, this valuation driver becomes the dominant issue that will be driving the market and prospective returns. This is exactly why growth investing trounced value for much of the past decade, even before the pandemic. Ultimately, the growth-versus-value decision depends on what the world will look like once Covid-19 is in the rear-view mirror. But even with a vaccine, if we return to the pre-Covid world, when you think about it, it actually means a return to a slow-growth, low-interest-rate, and low-inflation world, which means growth will remain the place to be because they are the longest duration stocks in the equity market. For cyclicals and value stocks to work, you want faster economic growth, signs of inflation, and higher interest rates. There’s been a move recently into the value trade and it does make sense since these stocks are dirt cheap and deserve to be rerated positively for a post-pandemic world. But at the root, this is really just a mean reversion trade, and it may have more legs to it. But that is why it is referred to as the ‘value trade’ and not the ‘value trend’; for the same reasons value unperformed growth 80% of the time and by more than 3 percentage points per year during the 2009-2019 bull market expansion.

The major point I need to emphasise right out of the gates is that it can’t possibly be lost on anyone that what we had was a health crisis that morphed into an economic crisis and then somehow managed to morph into a financial crisis that was ten times worse than anything we saw in the Great Financial Crisis. We simply refuse to stop these cycles of redressing debt crises by adding more debt, which merely compounds the adverse effects from the recession that is inevitable, and yet at the peak of the cycle nobody ever seems to be prepared for one.

The vaccination process is no reason to believe we are not in some form of economic depression that has only been disguised by unprecedented policy stimulus. Just because your kid has training wheels doesn’t mean he (she) knows how to ride the bike. And we have an economy on our hands that could not survive without large-scale deficit finance and central banks suddenly acting like hedge fund managers. This is why it’s going to be a depression because what comes next is a secular change in attitudes towards credit and towards savings. I mean, seriously, over half of American households didn’t have enough cash on hand to even get through three months of a job loss — quite remarkable when you consider Canada went into this mess with a 50-year low unemployment rate of 3.5%. Not to mention the corporate sector where, for some reason, the word “liquidity” became a dirty nine-letter word this past cycle. Now every business has working capital they have to cover with a fraction of last year’s cash flow. And this got me thinking about how the future will be one of treating “savings” as sacrosanct. Beyond the quarter or two of pent-up demand release in 2021, frugality is going to emerge as the primary theme. It’s not the end of the world, either, unless you’re an advocate for a sustainable and vigorous economic expansion.

In a narrow view, the markets are telling us that the ‘new normal’ will be a ‘reversion to the mean’ where life goes back to normal. And to that I say not so fast. People will surely go back to restaurants, hotels and airplane travel in due course, but don’t think for a second that there will not be residual impacts. The narrative emerging from the recent trading action in the equity market tells us that we are going back to our old lifestyles and that is what I would bet heavily against. I have seen, and continue to see, secular shifts in behaviour that will transcend a couple of quarters of pent-up demand release, that we will be stuck with a permanently higher equilibrium personal savings rate and a permanently lower labour force participation rate. And if we do somehow revert to the old normal, remember that the prior ten-year period was one of low growth, low inflation and low interest rates. I don’t see that changing because the secular forces of aging demographics, massive debt burdens and extreme income and wealth inequalities, if anything, have become accentuated by the pandemic.

What the world looks like when the crisis ends is truly anyone’s guess, but I will say with 100% clarity that it is going to look a lot different than it did before. I sense that some of the structural changes in our economy could be long-lasting. Global supply chains could shrink, and in some cases we might see the full repatriation of manufacturing in certain industries, for instance in pharmaceuticals, food and high-tech like semiconductors. Areas deemed to be in the realm of national security. Before the pandemic, the emphasis was on “just-in-time” production, with parts being delivered just when they were needed in the manufacturing process. In the post-pandemic period, the emphasis could shift, to some extent, to “just-in-case” supply chains, emphasising proximity and certainty of delivery. And then beyond the question over government policy, we have to consider at the individual level, how months of isolation and distancing and in the future, a fear of mutation of the pandemic, are going to fundamentally alter lifestyles, and will have a profound influence, not just on the way we live, but on how we conduct ourselves in our personal and business lives.

Then we have to consider, when we get to the other side, the massive government debts we will have built up and how that, along with even more bloated central bank balance sheets, will get dealt with. Will the debts get monetised, or not? Or God forbid, will taxes have to go up on the middle-class? Just some things to contemplate in 2021 as we get our booster shots and then race to the local brasserie. The stock market is not the economy so don’t believe for a second that record equity prices means the road ahead isn’t going to be a bumpy one.

David Rosenberg is the Founder, Chief Economist & Strategist of Rosenberg Research & Associates, www.rosenbergresearch.com.